2016 End of Year Reflection

I can honestly say that 2016 has been one of the most productive years of my adult life. It was the first full year in my 40’s and it was full of rewarding and humbling moments. I began the year with high expectations and I end the year with confidence knowing that I accomplished much of what I desired. One of the biggest things from 2016 that I have experienced was a great sense of loss. This came from the untimely death of my beloved nephew Kevin Neal, Jr. and the deaths of so many people who had a grand part in fashioning my youth and young adult development.

Like many persons at the end of the year, I take a moment and reflect on the totality of the year. There is a wonderful exercise that I have been using to accomplish this. I’ll share this year’s with you. How wonderful it is to know I’ve come this far by faith and God’s grace and have yet a ways to go. I’m grateful for all the people, places, and experiences I been graced to have in 2016. As John Newton writes in the third stanza of Amazing Grace ” Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come. T’was grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me on.”

10 Highlights (Accomplishments, Best Memories)

  1. Passing Doctoral Qualifying Exam and becoming an official doctoral candidate
  2. Serving as a presenter at the Black Non-Believers 5th Anniversary Celebration
  3. Serving as a Delegate to the 50th Quadrennial General Conference and 200th Anniversary of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
  4. Being appointed the new Dean of Ministerial Instruction for the South Mississippi Conference Board of Examiners
  5. Becoming a Spokesperson for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense and Survivors Engagement Lead for Everytown for Gun Safety
  6. Lobbying with Clergy for Prison Reform
  7. Lobbying at US Capital with National Council of Churches
  8. Attending Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE)National Pastor’s Policy Summit
  9. Celebrating five years as pastor of New Bethel AME Church of Jackson
  10. Joining a local community choir

 Disappointments (Failures, Missed Opportunities)

  1. Not spending enough time with my nephew Kevin before he passed
  2. Not maintaining regular spiritual discipline
  3. Not going to the gym consistently
  4. Not promoting book, ministry and radio show
  5. Indecisive about romantic relationships
  6. Not making time for self
  7. Not traveling for pleasure
  8. Not managing finances well
  9. Not reading more
  10. Not aggressively ministering to youth and young adults at the church

3 Game Changers (Unexpected Events that shifted my priorities)

  1. Being featured in the upcoming Exodus documentary
  2. Getting back in school and passing my DQE, attending Residency II in Atlanta, and beginning the journey of writing my dissertation
  3. Church Promotion and exposure in local and regional media outlets

3 Things I focused on (What I put the most of my time into

  1. Gun Safety and Advocacy
  2. Criminal Justice reform
  3. Returning to doctoral program and completing my dissertation

3 Things I forgot (What I didn’t get around to)

  1. Self Care-poor diabetes management and little rest and didn’t journal consistently
  2. Complete writings I started
  3. Didn’t engage my creative side-didn’t compose music or write enough poem

The Saga of Jason Collins

Jason-Collins-is-gay_-Image-via-@SInowThis week Jason Collins is being celebrated as heroic, courageous, brave, and all the like simply because he has come out of the closet as a gay man. While this may be worth celebrating for some, it has raised concerns for many others. Personally, I am not the least bit bothered by his coming out, but I question motive and timing. I am no conspiracy minded person, but let’s be realistic about this guy’s average career and the fact that career is almost over. What makes this unique is that no one, not one single person including Collins’ own twin brother or ex-fiancé was aware of his sexual orientation. That begs to question his motive also but again, that is inference only and not definite proof of his motive. Collins is certainly reaping the benefits of his announcement.
He has made the news cycle; he’s gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated, and has received a personal call of thanks and adulations from President Obama and a tweet of support from First Lady Michelle Obama. I’m not sure why the need for either of them to do so when they are neglecting the other real brave, courageous, and heroic individuals that do simple things other than proclaiming their sexual orientation to the world. Maybe it’s because he’s a professional basketball player in a sport dominated by black males who often promote misogynistic ideals.
Perhaps it is because the Black community is one of the last great horizons for the breaking of same sex barriers and phobias. Whatever the case may be, I cannot say that his coming out is a reason to celebrate. I do however believe that if he encourages others in the league or any other professional sport to follow suit, it would all but turn the idea of the US being a normal country upside down. Jason Collins’ announcement is not likely to change the world as we know it.
There will be a multitude of young men and women who will come out of the closet or struggle in the closet regarding their sexual orientation. It is our responsibility as Christian believers to encourage them, love them, not judge or condemn them, and empower them with the faith of Christ.

What I Learned From Will Smith in Hitch

Everyone has their favorite movie and actor. For me, younger actors don’t get any better than Will Smith. I’ve been a fan of Smith since he was The Fresh Prince rapping “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” It’s been wonderful watching him transition from funny rapper to highly demanded Hollywood leading man. Although I love and deeply admire just about every film Mr. Smith has appeared in, his 2005 film “Hitch” is by far my favorite. I love the quality balance of comedic acting with relevant romantic overtones. It is one of the few movies that actually seeks to engage the viewer in their perception of how a romance can be developed and nurtured until it blossoms into the happily ever after that is seemingly elusive to so many people including myself. Also according to the Internet Movie Database, Hitch was the first movie to feature an African-American male as the lead in a romantic comedy. Smith’s character gives hope to shy yet despairingly and hopelessly romantic single men such as me. He also provides the confidence to jump into the river of love with confidence but caution.

There are far too memorable scenes for me to discuss in this article, but there is one that stands out to me. In the scene where Smith’s character Hitch is in a bar playing a game of pool with his buddy Ben (actor Michael Rapaport). In the scene, Hitch and Ben view two beautiful walk into the bar, and both get distracted, yet Hitch is the only one who acts on the impulse to meet the women. Before Hitch makes his move, Ben tells Hitch that he is always taking the short shots instead of taking the long shots. The analogy is of course related to Ben’s reflection of Hitch’s choice to remain single and chase women instead of choosing to settle down in a monogamous relationship.
This made me think so hard about what I am looking for and expecting as a single man. What complicates my situation is the fact that I am also a pastor, teacher, author, and regular jack of all trades but master of none. I’ve found myself in the same situation as Hitch: short-sighted and settling for the easy shot instead of focusing and aiming for the long shot. Theoretically, it doesn’t take much to fall in love, but it takes a lot to nurture a relationship once it has begun. Hitch provides young, single Black men like me another angle to romance. I don’t have to be too suave to capture a woman’s heart, but it sure helps. I don’t have to overextend my priorities, habits, or intentions to make the woman fall head over heels for me. Hitch teaches a brother that the easiest thing to be is oneself. If I am myself when on a first date, then I should continue to be myself on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and every date following. I have learned to use my eccentricity to capture the heart of the woman I want without killing both of us in the process. Hitch has modeled for me the mistakes and miracles every man can use to stand out for the woman I want to attract.

Thanks Hitch for being my personal Date Doctor.